The VAR industry functions in a very competitive market scenario. Among many challenges that VAR industry faces, some of the most prominent ones are:
- Managing database of multiple decision-makers
- Integration of disparate business functions
- Creating personalized targeted marketing messages
- Record and view customer feedback
- Measuring marketing ROI
CRM software can address these challenges effectively and hence become one of the most popular tools for the VARs.
Statistics say CRM is a $36 billion global industry and delivers an ROI of almost 245%. Owing to the benefits of CRM, 23% of small companies, 44% of medium-sized companies and 27% of large companies use CRM. In fact, 50% of sales teams have been known to report improved productivity with CRM!
Let’s understand CRM in detail.
What is CRM?
Customer Relationship Management software is a tool that enables organizations to manage their relationships and interactions with prospects, contacts and customers. However, given its advantages, now it is perceived as a holistic business strategy to streamline sales, marketing and customer service functions and bring the database under one roof.
There are several benefits of CRM:
- Centralized repository to store and access all information.
- Automation of all processes.
- Effortless team collaboration and communication.
- Cost-effectiveness – less paper and manual work.
- Increase in sales productivity.
- End-to-end customer engagement and satisfaction.
- Improvement in lead conversion rate and customer retentions.
- Reduction in sales cycle time.
Different Types of Customer Relationship Management
There are different types of CRM software based on purpose as well as hosting platform.
Based on Purpose
Operational CRM:This CRM is useful to manage day-to-day operations of sales, marketing and customer service. It contains sales, marketing and service automation tools to manage the sales pipeline, target customers at different stages of sales funnel and provide comprehensive services to customers.
Analytical CRM:This CRM is ideal for tracking and analyzing data pertaining to customer acquisition and retention.
Collaborative CRM:This CRM is suitable to enhance the customer experience across all channels.
Based on Hosting
On-Premise:This CRM is installed on your organization’s servers. You have to buy a license to install it and according to the number of users in the organization. Right from installation to infrastructure upgrades, your internal IT team has to manage the on-premise CRM
Cloud-Based:This CRM works on a subscription basis and as the names suggests, it is stored in the cloud or on the internet. The database is stored on the servers of third parties and end-to-end services are managed by cloud-based CRM service providers.
SaaS-Based:Also known as on-demand CRM, this one is an emerging category in CRM. A vendor licenses CRM software as a service on demand on a pay-as-you-go or time-based subscription. All you have to do is to create and manage content in CRM, the rest of the issues such as installation, security, upgrades and maintenance are taken care of by the vendor.
There is a very blurred line between cloud-based and SaaS-based CRM and both terms are used interchangeably. However, both these CRM have advantages over the traditional on-premise CRM in terms of lower upfront cost, easy deployment, flexibility, accessibility and scalability.
Ways to Choose Customer Relationship Management
When choosing the best CRM software, keep the following factors in mind.
1.Document Features You Want
Different CRM tools offer different features. You need to list the features which suit your business needs, size and nature. A good CRM can integrate all business functions and has features such as:
- Lead/prospect management
- Customer/contact management
- Opportunity management
- Activity/Task tracker (calls, emails, demo, meetings, follow-ups)
- Notes interface (put comments against each contact)
- Report generation
- Workflows and approvals.
2.Check the Budget
Even if the particular CRM ticks off all features on the checklist, it should also meet your budget. If you have monetary constraints, then divide the features into primary and secondary buckets. This will help you find out which features can optimize the results in the given budget.
3.Type of CRM
As mentioned above, you also need to decide what type of CRM you want to install based on purpose and hosting platform. Choose that offers you the maximum value at the lowest price.
4.Ease of Use, Functionality and Scalability
It is often believed that more the features CRM has, more beneficial it is. On the contrary, too many features can make CRM more complex to use and understand. The litmus test for finding this out is to let one of the sales persons or a user from your team to test the CRM. If he finds it too complicated in a way that extensive training would be required, then that CRM is not for you. Research shows that 55% of users see the ease of use as a key CRM feature.
A business continues to evolve and its business needs to keep changing with time. The CRM should be such that it is scalable according to the growing business needs. If you are a small business or a startup, scalability is a very crucial feature to consider while choosing CRM.
5.Integration with Mobile and Other Systems
Your business might have implemented various accounting, marketing, email, e-commerce and other third-party applications. A good CRM should be able to integrate with all other systems and also mobile seamlessly. A study reveals that mobile access to CRM increases sales force productivity by an average of 14.6% with a further three in ten mobile CRM users reporting productivity improvement by more than 20%. Also, 65% companies with mobile CRM achieve their sales quotas. So, if your business operations are spread extensively across geographical barriers and your sales force is constantly on the move, opt for CRM that offers mobile features.
When you install CRM software, you need vendor assistance no matter how efficient or large your IT team is. So, check what type of support the vendor offers. The vendor should be available 24/7 and have at least one dedicated person for your CRM.
7.Ask for Trial or Demo
The best way to find out whether CRM software you are considering is good for you or not is to test it. So, ask the vendors if they can give you a trial or demo. You can understand how features work and whether they are suitable for your business needs.
Example of CRM
Some CRM software examples are:
- On-premise: Drupal, WordPress
- Cloud-hosted: Hostway, WPEngine
- SaaS-based: Core dna, CrownPeak
CRM is a crucial investment in your business. Choose it only after detailed research and elaborate consideration of the above factors.
Shane is an American writer for various digital news publications. After being in the eCommerce industry for more than 15 years, Shane has a good understanding of what it takes to make an eCommerce business successful. His articles give insights on the latest trends in the B2C and B2B eCommerce industry. His eCommerce coverage is robust and provides everything from best eCommerce platform to improving your website site. He also likes to cover newsworthy events related to business management software, customer relationship management (CRM) and Quoting software.